I am not, by any means, an expert on grief. I know that there are a lot of really knowledgeable mental health professionals out there who have years of education, research, and numerous publications on their list of credentials, who can provide you with all kinds of information and resources. I can only speak from my own personal experience. I can tell you what grief has looked like, and continues to look like for me.
In the beginning, my grief was very public. Looking back on this now, I think there were a few reasons for that. I initially started posting on Facebook and Instagram to update our family and friends on what was happening after Ralf had been admitted into the hospital. It just made it easier. He and I were both being flooded with phone calls, texts and emails that were nearly impossible to respond to, and I wanted to relieve whatever stress I could for him. I took to social media because obviously it was easier to reach everyone that way. Then somehow those factual status updates and requests for prayers evolved into something more. They became my therapy. I found that writing allowed me to express my feelings in a way that I wasn’t able to otherwise. When I saw the response that I received, I was completely blown away. I decided to start an actual blog and I could not believe that so many people wanted to read MY words, that they found comfort in what I had to say. Honesty, I still can’t believe it. I remember seeing that my blog posts had gotten tens of thousands of views – some even from people outside of the U.S.- and thinking, “Seriously?!” I NEVER imagined that I could have that kind of impact.
Then at some point, my grieving process changed. I no longer wanted the attention. I no longer wanted to be recognized at the grocery store or at the gym as “the poor young widow” who lost her husband at 28 years of age while pregnant with their first-born child. It became overwhelming. It had nothing to do with everyone else and everything to do with me. It was the same love and support that I had been receiving, even from complete strangers, from the beginning. But somewhere along the way, it became a repeated reminder of the life that I had lost. Of the life that I was supposed to have and that would never be. I remember several occasions where I had to paint a smile on my face and try my best to utter a sincere-sounding “thank you” when all I was thinking in my head was, “If one more person gives me their condolences, I am going to lose my damn mind!” I didn’t want condolences. I didn’t want any more monetary donations or gifts. I just wanted Ralf.
I continued to write a few more blog posts after I started feeling that way. After all, writing it out is my way of working through my feelings. Unfortunately, however, I allowed a couple of negative comments to affect me so much, that I decided to fall off the grid for a while. I realize now that I was too vulnerable at the time. My writing and my blogging originally stemmed from a need for support and understanding because I was experiencing something so excruciatingly painful and I felt alone. When I came across negativity, I was in too fragile of a state to realize I couldn’t let the opinion of a couple of complete strangers keep me from doing something that I love to do and that so many other people appreciate – to write.
My resolution for this new year is to make more time for the things that I love to do, and to make them matter – and continuing to write about my experiences and feelings as a widowed mother does both. If I can touch just one person who is hurting or going through something similar, then I have succeeded.
So much has changed over the last year. My beautiful boy continues to grow and amaze me every day. I have a new man in my life who adores us both, and who understands my struggles because he too experienced the loss of a spouse. I have a new job and home in a new town. Many wonderful and exciting things came out of 2016, but I will forever be in the process of healing. I’m okay with that, because it’s a testament to just how much I loved and will always love what is lost. This beautiful, crazy, unpredictable, and challenging life continues – and I want to make every minute count.
Since I deleted the old site (soaringthroughsorrow), I was unable to reactivate it. So, I had to come up with a new name. I was brainstorming all weekend and of course, all the names I thought of were unavailable. Last night as I was cleaning up the kitchen after dinner, I found myself singing “Bless the Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts, as I so often do, and it came to me. This was the song that Ralf and I danced to on our wedding day. The first line says, “I set out on a narrow way many years ago, hoping that I’d find true love along the broken road.” Life is a very broken, twisted, winding road full of great times and hard times. But if you are blessed enough to find true love along the way, it’s all worth it.
Happy New Year to everyone reading this! I hope you find what you’re looking for along the broken road. Stay tuned…